Now that the winter holiday season has kicked into full gear, I want to make sure I'm well-stocked with wines to offer friends and family as they stop by for a little holiday cheer. And—not that there's anything wrong with cracking open bottles of domestic Chardonnay or Cabernet—I like to treat my guests to sips of something that they probably haven't tried before. And so, this holiday season I'm spanning the globe to find interesting and provocative wines to drink.
A new "power couple" in Spanish winemaking was born recently. Two wine-producing areas of Castilla y Leon in Northern Spain—D.O. Ribera del Duero and D.O. Rueda—announced a strategic partnership intended to promote and market the region's wines. Ribera is red and Rueda is white, so it seems like a natural coupling. Spanish wines continue to be good buys, with a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks. So, my holiday tables will be peppered with wines from Spain.
Arrocal Ribera del Duero ($17.99) is a versatile blend of Tempranillo (95 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (4 percent) and Merlot (1 percent) with lush, dark berry flavors and spicy bottom notes. The Wine Advocate awarded Arrocal 90 points for this one—not bad for an 18-buck wine. Or, track down a bottle of Veñedos Alonso del Yerro ($24) from Ribera del Duero. It weighs in at nearly 15 percent ABV—a powerful, concentrated wine albeit one with silky tannins.
I think Verdejo from Spain is a good white wine to serve at holiday parties with cold seafood and shellfish or soft fresh cheeses. I'm partial to Martínsancho Verdejo ($17.99) from Rueda. The grapes are descendants of a 17th-century vineyard and are hand-picked. The wine is made from free-run juice and is very extracted and herbaceous; a crisp, delightful white wine.
Heading down to Alsace, I'm a big fan of Willm Pinot Gris Réserve ($15.99), a dry, lovely Pinot Gris that is a great match for a wide range of foods, including holiday turkeys and hams. For an equally versatile holiday wine—this one a Rosé—I find Le Cirque Grenache Gris ($13.99) irresistible. It's produced by Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau cooperative in the Côtes Catalanes appellation of France—just across the Pyrenees from Catalonia in Spain. There are flavors of ripe melon, some pineapple, and white peach on the palate—a real crowd-pleaser.
In Italy, I know I can always trust Cantine Buglioni to deliver great wines at easy-to-handle prices. I'm a lover of Buglioni Il Disperato ($18.90). It's a still white wine made from Garganega grapes, with good structure, acidity, and fetching tropical flavors—an especially good match for crudités and light appetizers during the holidays.
Over in the New World, I count on Kim Crawford wines from New Zealand for quality and consistency. Tropical melon, pineapple, and citrus flavors and aromas burst from a glass of Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99), and winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst describes 2014 as "a classic vintage." Kim Crawford South Island Pinot Noir ($17.99) is also a good choice for the holidays, and a perfect pairing partner for roasted turkey or mushroom dishes.
From Australia, Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier ($17.99) packs a peppery punch and is a perfect foil for grilled and roasted meats. Although it's an Aussie wine, it's made in the style of Côte Rôtie via a collaborative effort between two renowned wine families: Chapoutier from France and Napa Valley's Terlato.